By Tony Attwood
Yesterday’s match was of course one of great joy, but among all the excitement there were two incidents yesterday that seemed to me of great importance: Costa’s yellow for arguing, and the way Ozil took his goal.
Which is why I went looking at the papers this morning and found…
“Costa received far too little protection from referee Michael Oliver as Arsenal’s players engaged in a series of nibbles at him.”
I really didn’t make that up. That is really in the Mirror.
This is Costa who got Gabriel banned for three matches (thankfully overturned by Arsenal’s dossier on Costa’s appalling catalogue of dirty tricks) and who acted out the part to get Gabriel sent off in his most disgraceful hammy way after Gabriel didn’t even touch him.
The event wasn’t on Match of the Day, and doesn’t seem to make it into most papers. Costa’s card was for protesting after Costa had a bit of a tussle with Koscielny by the halfway line. Koscielny took the ball away, Costa claimed that death to the Frenchman would be too light a punishment and shouted at the ref (or so it seemed) and got a yellow for dissent. Last season the ref would undoubtedly have sent Koscielny off. This year it was Costa in trouble.
Now the problem the media has is that because they have never once admitted that there is a problem with refereeing, they can’t admit that things might be changing. Andrew and I had a chat about this in the pub before the game and we both agreed that there does seem to be a serious mood swing within officiating this year. Whether it will last is another matter but for now our guess is that it is related to the upcoming change to video refereeing. The men in the middle just won’t be able to get away with it any more. Type III match fixing might just have met its own match. They are getting ready.
Anyway, the Guardian was closer to having watched the match I saw from the East Upper saying, “For one perfect half at the Emirates Arsenal produced something sublime, 45 minutes that contained pretty much the full set of Wenger-isms entwined in a relentless performance of sinuous passing football.”
That of course was not written by Amy Lawrence, who judging by her recent comment about strikers reaching double figures would have said that Arsenal haven’t even got a striker on five goals yet (which of course is true, although we do have rather a large number of players managing to get the ball into the net).
The Telegraph went for criticism of Chelsea rather than praise of Arsenal with “Antonio Conte fumes as Chelsea’s defence falls apart again in thrashing by Arsenal” and a second headline saying, “Just how bad were Cahill and Luiz?”
The Mail has “Back to the future for Wenger: Arsenal rout of Chelsea recalls the glory days at Highbury as Arsene nears 20th anniversary” and yes it was a bit like that.
But as I say there was one other thing I was looking for. I thought the third goal was incredible. Match of the Day made nothing of it, but Ozil’s hitting the ball into the ground to mislead Courtois and to get it to bounce over him was extraordinary. Had he angled the shot in the conventional manner Courtois would have had much more chance to spot the flight of the ball. This was one of the greatest bits of invention on a pitch I have seen for years.
At least the Guardian understood what happened saying, although they thought it a bit of a fluke… “The third goal in particular was an absolute sensation, the Full Wenger, a move that brought the manager up on to his feet with huge, sheepish, guilty smile on his face. As the crowd leapt and hugged you half-expected Wenger to start tapping the rim of his champagne flute and making a fond, grateful, dad-ish speech. This was supposed to be another taut London derby, a shaking of the lapels at the hands of Antonio Conte’s high-tempo hustlers. With 40 minutes gone it had turned into a procession.”
The Independent sadly lacks the eloquence of the Guardian’s Barney Ronay on his day and instead had, “This was the best Arsenal performance for years,” which is a bit like saying to your daughter on hearing she has just won Olympic Gold, “well done that girl!”
In fact Mr Ronay was spot on when pointing out just how much of this team is created and moulded by Mr Wenger. As when he said, “Iwobi fed the ball out to Héctor Bellerín – another Wenger page boy – who crossed into the space teased out of a ball-watching defence. Theo Walcott prodded it home.”
And he got the idea of the final goal too.
With five minutes until half-time the world’s most ethereal high-spec playmaker outmuscled N’Golo Kanté (yes, really) in his own half, scooted away at real pace, exchanged passes with Sánchez and then bounced a slightly scuffed volley down into the ground and over Thibaut Courtois. It was a brilliant Özil moment, and a pointed one too as he did what some have been demanding, driving right through the heart of an opponent in the most cinematic style and then finishing his own move.
But certainly besides Ozil these home built players need a mention, no matter whether they signed for Arsenal before birth as Iwobi seems to have done or got captured in their teenage years. Iwobi is a sensation who knows exactly what he wants to do with the ball and who does it – usually by passing it to Özil. It is hard to forget he’s only 20; easier to remember he is the perfect answer to the childish, “spend some fucking money” chant.
Which leads us to Fàbregas who could have been part of all that was so good last night, but chose to wend his own wasteful way. Last season we had the picture of poor old Cesc going round in circles with the ball twice and then kicking it straight at one of his team mates who was lying on the ground. This year Fàbregas left the pitch substituted for looking like a player who really should never have been there in the first place.
So what has gone wrong for the almighty Chelsea – the team with so much money they can do anything, buy anyone? They were as much in the market for centre backs as Arsenal last summer but ended up like this. We should ask “why?”
Arsenal in case you have forgotten were hopeless in the transfer market, dithering, not meeting asking prices, not wanting a certain player because he didn’t quite match the Wengerian mould.
So, instead of decisive action we got Holding from Bolton for £2m to cries of derisive laughter. Having seen him play there are still some saying you can’t win trophies with kids, but they are just idiots. And then we waited, discussed and got Shkodran Mustafi. How Chelsea must have wished they had bought either of these players. I wonder why both came to Arsenal instead.
Indeed a strange thing strikes me. Maybe this Wenger fella knows something about transfers after all.
Final point from the summer. “Arsenal don’t have leaders, Arsenal don’t have winners” said over and over and over and over and over and … well you get the idea … again.
Chelsea put out a team of winners – they’ve all won the league in various countries and are supposedly built upon leaders. So maybe one of the people who tells me that Arsenal don’t have leaders on the pitch will tell me who the leaders were in that match for Chelsea. And as I said, they could buy anyone they want. They have the money, and they don’t have a manager who refuses to spend.
- Arsenal – Chelsea: 3-0 for a team without a centre forward
- Arsenal v Chelsea: the teams, the predictions, the fair play league thus far
- Arsenal v Chelsea, groundhog day, oddball referees, injuries and Mr Africa to buy AFC.
- We need to talk about Granit. Is he DM or box-to-box?
Anniversary of the day
25 September 2008: Untold Arsenal predicted that Arsenal would sign a midfielder for £40m. On 2 September 2013 Arsenal signed Mesut Ozil.